Thursday, December 30, 2010

With each year

With each passing year, I become wiser as a father, husband and founder of L.E.A.D.  Wisdom often comes from mistakes made.  That's why I love the New Year.  The New Year cleans the slate and allows redemption.

Be ready for an aggressive push by L.E.A.D. to get more African-American males in college through baseball.  A 34% graduation rate of black males from Atlanta Public Schools is unacceptable but we are all working together for a positive change.

2010 was great for L.E.A.D., but with each year, God has blessed us beyond our request.  I'm claiming success for L.E.A.D. and Atlanta in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

The difference between being ordinary and extraordinary is simply doing a little extra.  Jason Heyward is a great example of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.

Jason provided a weekend for our Ambassadors that included getting haircuts followed by a visit to Lenox Mall where know one left empty handed.  The next day, Jason treated us all to the "Waiting For Superman" documentary.  After a great movie, we discussed it over some good food at Applebee's.

Our Ambassadors had an exclusive weekend with Jason that they will never forget.  It was empowering in addition to being fun.  Our Amabassadors said it best, Jason is just an ordinary person that does extraordinary things.

Ringing the bell

On Saturday, December 11th, the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors rang the Salvation Army kettle bell at Lenox Mall.  We greeted mall patrons with holiday well wishes as they responded with smiles and donations for the Salvation Army.

This was a refreshing sight with so much crime happening around our city involving so many young African-American males.  Doing good felt so good was a comment by one of my Ambassadors.

We rang the bells as loud as we possibly could in various locations throughout the mall with 25 Ambassadors.  My prayer is that everyone saw a civic minded group of young men that is starting a new trend of leadership in Atlanta through service.  The sounds of the bells echo that the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors are here and we are proud to be creations of God and thankful for this opportunity to be L.E.A.D. Ambassadors.  We are our brothers keeper and together we will achieve greatness.

Broccoli with cheddar cheese

I remember our inaugural L.E.A.D. Ambassador season in 2007 like it was yesterday.  One of our Ambassadors Joseph McCrary was in his senior year of high school at Redan with aspirations of competing at the collegiate level as a student and baseball player.  He maintained above a 3.0 GPA with solid  test scores.

Through exposure that L.EA.D. provided, he is now in his junior year of college at Savannah State University.  In addition to being a starting infielder on the baseball team, he also carries a 3.6 GPA.  He is majoring in accounting and hopes to work at a top accounting firm upon graduation.

Several people ask us is L.E.A.D. just a baseball team.  One of the aspects of L.E.A.D. is the strength of our network in corporate America.  I am proud of my board of directors and supporters because in addition to providing financial resources, they can provide career opportunities for our Ambassadors.

Deloitte is one of the top accounting firms in the U.S. and is based in Atlanta.  By the grace of God, Joseph has an opportunity to work as an intern at Deloitte this upcoming summer.  Working at Deloitte will truly change his life and his community.

Teaching baseball is the broccoli while providing career opportunities is the cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I entered the doors of Grove Park Elementary as a kindergartener in 1981.  I was a student at Grove Park Elementary School until 1986 when I moved on to middle school.  I remember Alonzo Crim being our Superintendent.  He was always at our school visiting and making sure that we were committed to excellence.

I loved coming to Grove Park every day to see our principal Mrs. Jones.  She was tall and beautiful and always called me a “handsome young man”.  Something as small as that made me want to be the best student that I could be.

Our field trips at Grove Park were amazing.  Every year, we would attend the Center for Puppetry Arts, High Museum and the Fox Theatre.  My second grade year, Mrs. Jacobs took us on a plane ride to North Carolina.

I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur after Career Day in the 5th grade.  There was a man that came into our classroom that had so much confidence.  He was speaking my language because I always wanted to be a business owner.  Now I knew the route to take to accomplish my goal.

I remember taking my peach-colored Quotable Quotes book from Benjamin E. Mays.  We read quotes from this book everyday as a school.  I still have that book today and the quotes are still empowering.

I am the leader that I am today because of my APS experience.  The entire school system embraced me and I felt like an asset of the Atlanta.  APS provides much more than an education.  It is all about being prepared for the rest of your life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Atlanta Way

A good friend of ours, Peter Rooney, brought to my attention a major detail about this city that should never be overlooked. This detail should never be overlooked or forgotten because it is engrained in every magnificent achievement this city has ever accomplished. This detail is the “Atlanta Way”. This city, the citizens of this city have a rich history in taking what most deem impossible to making it a model for other cities. From the way we got our own hometown team, America’s team in fact, the Atlanta Braves, before we even had a stadium, to the way we went from last class to first class with our prestigious zoo, Zoo Atlanta, and managed to turn the Grant Park community into a thriving, safe place for all of Atlanta to live and visit, to the way we all learned how to Have A Dream from one of our most courageous Atlantans, Dr. King- Atlanta has its way of doing things. L.E.A.D. is also deeply rooted in the Atlanta Way. As the founder of this great organization, I experienced the Atlanta Way when kind strangers reached out to me to help me achieve my goals. And so it is in this tradition that L.E.A.D. was born- one citizen reaching out to help others. And tonight, as we select the 2011 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors, I encourage those who have earned this designation to be prepared to continue in the great tradition that Atlantans have kept so well. Being a L.E.A.D. Ambassador is not just about baseball, it’s about keeping the promise to take care of our city and her citizens. It’s about upholding and guarding the Atlanta Way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your Ambassadors

The L.E.A.D. coaching staff just completed our 2011 Ambassadors selections.  This was the toughest selection in three years.  We increased our participation for our fall Legacy League from 30 in 2009 to 60 in 2010.  The increase produced several viable prospects on and off the field.

Traditionally, we select 18 Ambassadors from Atlanta Public Schools, Dekalb and South Fulton.  This year, we selected 20 Ambassadors and I am excited to get started.  We will begin off season training in January but the remainder of November and December is packed with some awesome service opportunities.

We will launch our Dollar Drive on November 22.  Each Ambassador will have a sheet paper with 20 reasons why someone should give them $1.  My goal is for the Ambassadors to raise over $500.  We will donate money to the Salvation Army and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta before Christmas.  In January, we will begin our winter workouts with Major Leaguers such as Jason Heyward, Bobby Scales and Dexter Fowler along with minor league prospects such as Tim Beckham, Xavier Avery and Kyle Parker.  The Ambassadors will also be heavily involved with training middle school Leaders in January and February in preparation for their spring season which will consist of 90 players from 6 APS middle schools.

The Ambassadors will compete for their high school teams from March to May followed by a rigorous summer Ambassadors season that will include competition against several of the top travel programs in the country.  They will be exposed to over 200 college scouts during the summer of 2011.

Atlanta, I hope that you are ready for L.E.A.D. to unveil the 2011 Ambassadors of this great city on Sunday, November 21st.  We are committed to representing this city with excellence in Academics, Athletics, Service/Civic Engagement and Exposure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pounding the pavement

In order to develop and maintain a strong business or non-profit organization, you must have strategic relationships.  Getting access to the right people is commonly referred toas pounding the pavement.

There will be obstacles along the way to let you know to stop and evaluate your ask.  I established a relationship with Mizuno USA more than 10 years prior to me asking for their sponsorship.  In that time, we I was able to analyze L.E.A.D.’s needs and how Mizuno could help.  With a healthy relationship and understanding in place, I was able to approach Mizuno with specific needs – not just a scattershot “we need help” approach.  In the past three years, Mizuno USA has been an apparel and equipment sponsor of L.E.A.D.  100% of my Ambassadors have enrolled in college wearing Mizuno apparel on and off the baseball field. 

I'm approached often by baseball organizations in regards to advice on developing relationships with sponsors.  It's definitely not an answer that I can give in an hour conversation.  Since my wife Kelli and I founded L.E.A.D., I have beat the bushes and developed more than 100 strategic relationships.  There are several people in Atlanta that want to increase the number of African-American males competing in baseball at the college level but it takes the right partnerships to make this happen.

Strategic relationships don't happen overnight so if you lack patience, you will never see them come to fruition.  Strategic relationships for L.E.A.D. ensure that I can provide the resources necessary for my Leaders and Ambassadors to succeed on and off the field.

There’s a lot of ground to cover for L.E.A.D. and I’m going to keep pounding the pavement.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Georgia's Own

This week, I had an opportunity to play in a charity golf tournament that featured some of Georgia's best — Georgia's Own Credit Union.  Being a valued citizen isn't an easy task but David Preter and the Georgia's Own Credit Union do it well.

L.E.A.D. was the beneficiary of this year's annual golf challenge organized by Julee Brunson and the rest of the Georgia's Own staff.

I met several staff members at the golf tournament from Georgia's Own.  If we could have raised $1 for every smile and kind word that they shared, we would have raised more than a million dollars.

David Preter is the CEO of Georgia's Own Credit Union and is dedicated to the success of Georgia, especially our youth.  His passion is infectious and the entire Georgia's Own staff shows a commitment to serving others.

L.E.A.D. was represented at the tournament by Georgians very important to L.E.A.D., including my wife and L.E.A.D. Executive Director Kelli Stewart, L.E.A.D. Ambassadors Cedric Daniel and Desmond Stegall, Dexter Fowler (centerfield, Colorado Rockies), Bobby Scales II (infielder, Chicago Cubs), Bobby Scales I (L.E.A.D. Supporter), Ted Wood (L.E.A.D. Advisory Board Member), Bill McLellan (L.E.A.D. Board Member) and myself.

Thanks to Georgia's Own Credit Union, L.E.A.D. can now help more Georgia youth.  Thank you David Preter, Ted Wood, Julee Brunson, Ashley Baker, the entire Georgia's Own team and all the sponsors and supporters for making this opportunity possible for L.E.A.D.!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Less than 40% of African American males graduate from high school and four of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America are located within 10 miles of our home base at Perkerson Park.  Our Ambassadors have a 100% high school graduation rate and all have been admitted to college.  Working with L.E.A.D. to give them a more positive future makes my heart happy.  When I consider that 75% of Atlanta Public School students live at or below the poverty level, it puts a smile on my face when I see a young man going to college using baseball to ensure that his family won't accumulate high debt in order to obtain a college degree. 

At times unfortunately, I believe that the smiles that my wife and I have on our faces lead people to believe that we have it all together.  The reality is that we are making it day by day.  The staff that is making L.E.A.D. successful is my wife Kelli and I.  We have faithful volunteers that includes the Leaders and Ambassador’s parents but we need more in order to keep L.E.A.D. going.  The "heart" work Kelli and I have done has gotten us to this point but this is our official call for help.

What do we need?  We need financial support.  If 5,000 people donated $10 a month for a year, we would meet our annual budget without a grant.  How have we been meeting our budget over the past three years?  Kelli and I haven't received a salary for our 7 day per week, 10 hours per day sacrifice.  We have been fortunate to receive grants from the Atlanta Braves, the MLB Baseball Tomorrow Fund and other local foundations.  We currently have a partnership with Mizuno that is year-to-year and our board of directors has been active.

Our results show that the program works and can be successful nationwide, but without staff and resources such as qualified coaches, staff, tutors and facilities, the future of L.E.A.D. will be difficult to maintain.

Unfortunately, having a heart for kids doesn't get the bills paid and we become limited in our ability to help additional deserving families.  Atlanta is my city and it hurts me to not be able to properly serve those families that want to do better.  If you can't find a way to do better, you are simply forced to survive.  My commitment is real.  We are in the trenches everyday trying to make Atlanta a safe place through the development of young men that are invested in making Atlanta great!

We also need your time.  When I was a kid, I was able to make my dreams become a reality through the support of a lot of people.  There is no reason that it can't still work.  There are millions of people living in this city.  Some are privileged and some are not.  At the end of the day, we are all Atlantans.   How much time do you have to donate to a worthy cause like L.E.A.D.  What professional resources can you provide to us?  We all have something to offer.

We are in the process of developing a Tailgate Club that will make giving to L.E.A.D. simple.  We are scheduled to launch the Tailgate Club December 2010.  For more details, visit  Giving to youth is the best investment that you can ever make.  You have a lot to offer and we want to show you what it’s worth to us.

Open both eyes wide America

Darren Oliver is a left-handed relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers.  I have never met Darren but I am a fan of his from afar based on his work ethic on the field and hearing him speak during press conferences.

Ron Washington is the manager of the Texas Rangers.  Ron had his share of problems during the 2010 season dealing with drug addition but he wasn't alone.  His struggle helped motivate the Rangers team to come together and do something that the organization has never done.  The Rangers are in the 2010 World Series.

Beside being members of the Rangers organization, Oliver and Washington have something else in common.  They are the only African-Americans participating on the field during the 2010 World Series.

Like anything in life, you have to be good enough to get invited to the "big dance".  But with less than 9% of blacks playing and coaching at the major league level, chances of having an African-American playing or participating in the World Series are too slim to bet on.

The reason that chances are slim is typically due to economics rather than interest in predominately black communities. Becoming a major leaguer starts with a dream at a young age and is fostered by professional training.  Professional training costs thousands of dollars to pay for travel tournaments, nutrition, consulting, vision training and equipment to name a few resources that you MUST have.  It is kinda like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel.  You will not compete as a baseball player at the highest level without consistent professional help.

We are talking about an annual 5K-10K investment.  Baseball is no longer the sport that allows you to develop skills by playing in the neighborhood, hitting rocks with an old wood bat and throwing strikes into a tire until your mom said it is time to come in the house.  Those days are gone!

There are less than 9% of blacks in the majors and less than 6% competing at the NCAA level.  This is a crisis but L.E.A.D. has heard the cry for help.  We’ve answered by going into the inner city, mentoring young men and preparing them for college.  We are proud to say 100% of our Ambassadors have graduated high school and were admitted to college; 83% of them have attended college on scholarship.  L.E.A.D. is the only development organization that uses baseball to promote excellence with those statistics.

My parents didn't have a college fund saved for me so getting a baseball scholarship was the best present that I could ever give them.  Now we are trying help more young men earn scholarships and give that same gift to their parents.

Baseball is America's game but something has to be done to increase the African-American presence at the MLB and collegiate level.  More African-Americans in the NCAA means more students have a chance to earn degrees and the opportunity to help create a stronger job force in America.  Getting this right means we see young black men to college, not in jail cells.  .

I'm actually cheering for the Rangers because of Jeff Francoeur but the 2010 World Series puts America on notice that enough isn't being done for baseball in inner city communities.  There will be millions of eyes on the World Series.  If your eyes can open a little wider America, look at L.E.A.D. in Atlanta.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remembering When You Were Raw

I played golf this week for the fifth time in my life.  My wife Kelli and I were guests of Zach and Rachel Blend at the Goshen Valley Classic at the Cherokee Golf Club.  I'm not much of a golfer but I love it for another reason.  Golf keeps me grounded so that I can be an effective baseball coach; it gives me a reality check that I still need development in areas of my life just like the Leaders in L.E.A.D.

Several of the Leaders in the Legacy League program are very raw, meaning that they haven't been coached or developed professionally as a baseball player.  In order to be effective as a coach for them, you have to be patient.

Some times as coaches, we forget that we were once raw too.  We’ve played at the high school level and beyond and have accomplished our goals.  Now we think we have all of the answers and expect to introduce a skill one time to our players and expect them to get it.

Whenever I begin to lose patience with my Leaders in regards to their baseball development, I simply play golf.  It reminds me that we all start somewhere and no matter what a person’s athletic ability is, they have to learn how to do something and practice it to get it right consistently.  We teachers, mentors and coaches need a reality check sometimes in order to properly help our youth.   If you aren't helping them, you are hurting them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Harvest time

The Legacy League is going well.  Our Leaders are showing strong progress in the classroom and on the field.

We are in week 6 of the Legacy League and I'm using my coaching skills on the field as well as to be a mentor and father figure.  L.E.A.D. is more than baseball so we have to be involved with Leaders in everything.  Our families count on our coaches to do more than teach their sons how to field fly balls.

One of my 9th grade Leaders from the Legacy League is failing two classes.  He has outstanding parents that really care about him so today I stepped in to address the problem.  He is a quiet young man with lots of ability and wants to attend the University of GA as an attorney.  This is his freshman year and he is learning a lot about himself and where he fits in life.  At his school, it is cool to fail classes and not cool to be a Leader.

After my long conversation with the young man, he said "I will do better coach!"  I asked him what makes you want to do better now.  His response was that he didn't want to disappoint L.E.A.D. and his city!  He now knows that he is more than a student/athlete after our talk.  He is an asset to this city.

Even though failing two classes isn't anything to be excited about, I truly feel that through L.E.A.D, I helped change a young man's life forever.  This country will reap the benefits of his success.

On another note, five Leaders have been invited to attend official visits to college programs.  Desmond Stegall (senior, B.E. Mays High School), Cedric Daniel (senior, Westlake High School) and Jarmani Conway (senior, Westlake High School) will travel to Jackson State University in two weeks to begin the recruiting process.  Kerry Webb (senior, MLK High School) and Kendrell Dabney (senior, SW Dekalb High School) will travel to Tuskegee University to begin their recruiting process in two weeks as well.

Planting seeds and maintaining them isn't easy but it is well worth it at harvest time.  L.E.A.D. has watched 100% of our Ambassadors walk across the graduation stage and into college.

Thank you for watering the seeds of L.E.A.D. by continuing to support our organization.  We won't let you down.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Principal for a Day

I couldn't wait to wake up for my day as principal at B.E.S.T. Academy, an all boys middle school in the inner city of Atlanta.

I arrived at 7:30AM and saw 30+ boys on the football field releasing some early energy.  It wasn't football practice.  Just a friendly game of touch football.

By 7:45, I was greeting several of the more than 400 boys that were getting off the bus.  Some had smiles and some had looks of frustration.  Maybe they didn't have dinner the night before or had a rough morning.  The world outside of the B.E.S.T. Academy walls presents a lot of challenges for the boys but they are all in a great place this morning.

At 8:30AM, we were in the cafeteria.  Some boys are eating a healthy breakfast while others are still being screened through the medal detectors.  B.E.S.T. is slowly but surely changing the community one student and one family at a time.

Between 9:00AM and 11:30, I visited 4 classrooms.  Mr. Blackmon's 7th grade language arts class allowed the boys to discuss the struggles between protagonist and antagonist.  Mrs. Babson's 7th grade language arts class gave all of the boys 10 minutes of soft music as they wrote their thoughts freestyle under dim lights.  They presented their writing so well.  Mr. Diggs’ 6th grade math class was the bomb – as in real loud when problems were solved.  I don't recall math being that much fun!  My day as principal ended in Mrs. Edwards’ 7th grade science class.  The boys were super engaged and hung on to her every word.  She was so nurturing yet professional.

B.E.S.T. is successful because of the leadership of its principal LaPaul Shelton.  It is a culture that sets high expectations and fosters respect between the teachers and students.  I saw them all at their best today and it wasn't staged.

I am now more motivated to invest more time and resources for B.E.S.T. as a partner in education.  I care about my city and know you will never lose when you invest in kids.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

L.E.A.D. Development P.R.O.C.E.S.S.

L.E.A.D.'s Fall Legacy League Instructional Program is America's 1st program that focuses on the professional development of inner city baseball players.  In three years, L.E.A.D. has successfully placed 83% of our Ambassadors in college with scholarships and 100% of our Ambassadors have enrolled in college. 

All of the talent in L.E.A.D. is raw, meaning that they haven't been coached professionally.  We don't run away from raw talent because we have a development P.R.O.C.E.S.S. that works.

We PREPARE our Leaders by educating them on the front end about the fundamentals required to convert their raw talent to skills that are attractive to college coaches for scholarship opportunities.

We REINFORCE those fundamentals taught on the field and in the classroom with skill building drills, using a methodology on and off the field with journaling and weekly blogs.

We give OPPORTUNITIES for our Leaders to learn from their mistakes in an instructional game  environment.  If they make a mistake, we recreate the situation and do it again.  Practice makes permanent.

We teach our Leaders how to COMMUNICATE through positive conversations with our coaches instead of negative body language.

We EXPOSE our Leaders to high level competition against top tier teams to test what has been learned.  The games are indeed a test.  We make mistakes on the test but get opportunities in practice to learn and continue the development process.

We teach our Leaders that without STRUGGLE there is never SUCCESS.  Proper development always includes failure.

L.E.A.D. will continue to succeed using this process of development of raw inner city baseball talent.  All we need is for the families to come into the organization willing to develop.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Gensen Scott Guest Blog

Eight L.E.A.D. Ambassador program graduates started college.  These young men brought the lessons they learned through L.E.A.D. with them and are playing baseball at their respective colleges.  Gensen Scott is a freshman at Shaw University.  He has written a guest blog to talk about how L.E.A.D. has impacted his college career so far.

The L.E.A.D. organization has helped me in so many positive ways! I am currently a college student at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. L.E.A.D. helped me as a student and personally. They have provided me with the knowledge of correct decision making skills which have truly helped me in college in an environment where I am now responsible for all my actions. As a student, they pushed for excellence in the class room and without grades I would be unable to play this season. Due to the decision making skills and that extra push for academics from L.E.A.D., I am more confident in my studies and class work. They took me from being a livewire ready to explode any second, to teaching me how to be a man with a brain and how to think situations all the way through.

I have been tested many times since beginning college but I applied what I learned from the L.E.A.D. organization and the outcome has come to benefit me in many ways. As a player, the coaching staff of the L.E.A.D. organization is absolutely phenomenal. They have given me the correct fundamentals and knowledge of the game.  Now I can help my new teammates and teach them the right fundamentals. That way we can become better as a team instead of me just being a good individual. I have learned the greatness of team work and being a part of something that’s more than just an organization and a baseball team.  The L.E.A.D. organization is like my family I always feel welcomed and loved when I am in the presence of any member of the L.E.A.D. organization.

I cannot express enough how appreciative I am of Coach CJ and Ms. Kelli for starting an organization to help young men like me.

Gensen Scott #21

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Check the menu

I pick at my wife Kelli all the time about how she goes to McDonald's and it takes her 10 minutes to order from the menu.  The McDonald's menu has changed some over the years but for over 50 years, it's basically been the same.  With laughter, I say "please order some food Kelli!"

To her defense, she wants to be sure that she orders exactly what she wants based on her current craving.  You should get what you want but you must also realize that McDonald's isn't Burger King where you can "Have it your way!"

L.E.A.D. is no restaurant, but on our menu we offer leadership development, professional baseball development, civic engagement, mentorship and discipline for young men grades 6-12 from the Atlanta Public School System, South Fulton and Dekalb County.

We operate based on the life experiences that allowed me to use baseball to attend GA State University as a student/athlete and later play professionally for the Chicago Cubs.  Now that my playing days are over, I'm a business owner, philanthropist and I love serving others.

I find that the one menu item that parents have issue with from time to time is the discipline of their sons.  I was raised that when you are wrong, it must be dealt with swiftly and firmly.  This is something I’ve carried over to L.E.A.D. and is the way we operate. 

I too was raised in the inner city and I faced challenges everyday as a male.  Learning to make good decisions often comes from making a lot of bad ones previously.  I am not the wisest man on earth but I'm more experienced than the young men that we serve and I'm here for the sole purpose of helping them win the game of life.  Life can deal bad hands and boys play the game differently.  I know because I have been there and have the wisdom that comes from living through it.

It seems that there is a McDonald's on almost every corner.  You can also bet that there is a Burger King not too far away.  L.E.A.D. has a menu that is well thought out and appreciated by most our customers but we realize that not everyone has a taste for our offerings.  That is what makes this country so great because there is always a Burger King around the corner that will allow you to have it your way.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No headset in the dugout Coach Richt

Listening to football players talk about baseball is hilarious because to them, all you do is just swing the bat, hit the ball and run as fast as you can.  Watching them swing the bat and miss repeatedly is even funnier.

Not sure how many football players I would recruit from the GA Bulldogs, Tech or the Falcons to play baseball but I would love to have their coaches in the dugout with me.

I would like for Coach Richt to assist me with making the L.E.A.D.  Leaders become more of a family on and off the baseball field.  The Bulldog football players may not win every game on Saturday's but they play hard for each other and leave it all on the field.  They all understand their role realizing that they are a link in the chain and each link must be strong in order for the chain to be strong.  Coach Richt motivates his players to a high level and they believe in him.  I can hear the cheers from my wife who is also a Bulldog fan.  "It's great to be a GA Bulldog!  I say it's great to be a GA Bulldog!" I want that same strong sense of pride and family within L.E.A.D.

I would like for Coach Johnson to assist me with the offense of L.E.A.D.  Watching the Yellow Jackets on offense is fun.  They execute plays with great tempo and efficiency.  Smash mouth football at its best.  I believe that the opposing defense at times know what plays that Tech will run but the Yellow Jackets continue to run the ball at the heart of the defense.  This is the attitude that I want my batters to have.  Make your opponent concentrate and containing you because he knows that he can't stop you.  Buzz!

I would like for Coach Smith to lend his defensive mind to the L.E.A.D. coaching staff.  The Atlanta Falcons play defense with intensity and passion.  Their opponent will score but the Falcons defense won't quit.  Being a playmaker is what defense is all about.  You have to want the ball to come to you.  Good defense wins games.  Let's go L.E.A.D.!  Rise Up!

Football is here and L.E.A.D. is also in full gear with competitive high school baseball for inner city teens with our Fall Instructional Baseball Development League.  The Legacy League is America's 1st Fall Developmental League geared towards inner city teens.  We practice and play games weekly during the fall but nothing and I mean nothing interferes with watching GA Bulldog, GA Tech and Falcons football.  We love baseball but you can't beat the thrill of football.  I will be watching the coaches on sideline closely and learning from them as I prepare our Leaders on the Diamond.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

1935 Ford

A little over 3 years ago, I was leaving my baseball training facility in Cobb county for the day and my good friend Josh Mills was coming in to work at his automobile restoration shop.  He and other workers were pushing an old, beat up 1935 Ford in the garage. 

I said, "What in the world are you going to do with that?"

He replied, "Look at this photo. This car will look like that in a year."

I'm thinking to myself as I look at the photo of a mint condition replica, there is no way in the world- especially doing it by hand.  He bought the old car for $5,000 and claimed that he would restore and sell it for $80,000.  Josh had to explain to me that he is a professional and wouldn't take on a project that he couldn't complete.  He said it takes a plan, skill, patience, the right equipment and paying careful attention to detail.

L.E.A.D. was conceived immediately after that conversation three years ago for the sole purpose of developing the raw baseball talent of inner city high school baseball players in Atlanta and providing opportunities for them to use their new baseball skills to access college.

Three years later, Josh's 35 Ford has been restored and sold for over $90,000.  L.E.A.D. is also established and to date, 83% of our Ambassadors are enrolled in college on baseball scholarships and 100% of them are enrolled in college.

On Sunday, September 5th, 2010, L.E.A.D. finalized selections for our Legacy League Fall Instructional Program and welcomed 60 families into the organization.  In the interview process, parents expressed that they want us to teach their sons how to become leaders in their communities, the importance of making good decisions and academic achievement.  They also mentioned that their sons love baseball more than any other sport and they want us to finally teach them the proper way to play the game.

L.E.A.D. does that and a whole lot more; we have the plan, skill, patience, the right equipment and pay careful attention to detail.  Let's have another great year L.E.A.D.!

1935 Ford - Before
1935 Ford - After

Young men hear about what it means to be a L.E.A.D. Ambassador at an info session.
L.E.A.D. 2010 Ambassador Graduating Class - All 8 young men are currently attending college with baseball scholarships.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jason Heyward is the new cool!

Jason Heyward has received national attention this year and is considered a compassionate, selfless, focused, humble and disciplined baseball player.  These aren't words that are usually used to describe athletes.  Especially athletes that are only 21 years old.

I have been privileged to be a part of Jason's development on and off the field as a mentor and swing coach since he was 14.  It is an awesome feeling to see a young man achieve his childhood dream and be a part of it.

I get the opportunity to have the same influence on all of the Leaders in the L.E.A.D. organization.  Being successful is all about how you respond to support and resources provided by coaches, mentors, teachers, etc.

I am convinced that my leadership and influence works.  Jason makes that clear everytime he speaks about the team rather than himself.  He also makes it clear everytime he hits a Hey-Maker over the fence and sprints around the bases.

Jason serves as the Honorary Ambassador for L.E.A.D.  Not because of who he is but what he does.  He is just the example that we need to show our Leaders that striving for excellence in the classroom and on the field is the right choice. Jason isn't perfect.  He is just Jason.

Actions speak louder than words.  If only Jason's actions had a volume button so that they would get more attention throughout the country.  Being compassionate, selfless, focused, humble and disciplined is the new cool!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


This weekend, L.E.A.D. will be finalizing applications and selecting new families into our Fall Legacy League program.  The Legacy League is America's 1st fall instructional play league that focuses specifically on inner city middle and high school talent.

Being accepted in this program makes dreams become reality.  The reality of now being in a program that provides access to college through academics and baseball.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Mendez Elder who is a two year member once told me that it is his dream to attend GA Tech as a student athlete.  "If I can't go to Tech, I don't want to go to college!" Mendez is currently a junior at Grady High School (Atlanta Public Schools) and GT’s Head Baseball Coach Danny Hall knows Mendez on a first name basis. 

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Desmond Stegall is a one year member and a senior at Benjamin Mays High School (APS).  He also wants to attend GA Tech as a student athlete.  This weekend, he attended a prospect clinic held by GA Tech and graded high on their baseball evaluation.  He told me after the clinic that "this is where I belong Coach." He made that statement because L.E.A.D. trained him professionally and exposed him to competition against hundreds of the top high school players in the nation as well as some of the nations top travel baseball teams. 

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Brandon Brinkley is currently a freshman at Selma University and a recent graduate of Booker T. Washington High School (APS).  Let's just say that baseball hasn't been  the most popular sport at the school.  Rumor speaks to Dr. Martin Luther King being a member of the baseball before graduating and attending Morehouse College.  There hasn't been a scholarship baseball player come from Washington High School in over 15 years.  Brandon has cut a trail for several young men at the school to follow.  He once told me that "I will do anything to play in college.  I just want a chance!"

L.E.A.D. is charged with helping young men who want the most out of life achieve their dreams: attending and excelling in college; becoming entrepreneurs, attorneys and physicians; being civic minded and leaders in their communities.

L.E.A.D. is bigger than baseball and the support of communities in this state and across the country helps us to make dreams a reality.  We need help from you so that we can help more families.  Can you help us make dreams come true?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The 21st Century Rec Center

When I was a child, the neighborhood rec center served a different type of youth. Today it serves youth that are angered by the lack of love provided by a stable home environment.  It serves youth that are hungry to learn more and that want to live a better life than they currently live.  They are also hungry from a lack of food at home.  Back in my day, just about anything would hold our attention.  I remember playing baseball with tennis balls and a stick.  We played four square, kickball and raced each other all day long.  We would get dropped off at sun up and get picked up at sun down.  We were safe and respected authority.  We had all the energy in the world and fueled our body with Kool-Aid and chips.  Today’s youth need to learn skills that will allow them to earn income now in an effort to survive in the world.  Going to college opens up a world of career opportunities and also gives youth and opportunity to live the American Dream but today, they are faced with not much food in the house and a lack of adult supervision.

As a child, I frequented Adams Park and Collier Park.  These centers produced several leaders of Atlanta, including Mayor Kasim Reed, City Council President Caesar Mitchell and City Councilman Kwanza Hall.  For me as a child, the rec center was simply a place of recreation.  An outlet to get out the house and have fun.  Today, the rec center has to be a place of development for youth.  Staff members have to be the mother and father figure along with being tutors. 

The rec centers worked before and can work again but what type of child are the centers serving now?  Youth today have to over achieve.  You can know longer get a good paying job with a GED.  A college degree at times can’t you a job these days.  Today’s youth need to know what career opportunities exist and how to get them.  Dreaming of success occurs when your eyes are closed but when your eyes open, reality sets in.  The reality is that some of the youth in the inner city aren’t aspiring to do more than what they see in their community which is suffering due to a decline in the country’s economy.  It is time to introduce them to politics and provide a mentor that will be there every step of the way.  It is time to introduce them to programs like L.E.A.D. that takes their interest in a sport like baseball and show them how they can access college with the possibilities of becoming a General Manager for the Atlanta Braves or the Braves attorney.  The youth that we serve today needs more than words of encouragement.  They demand a road map for success.  They demand year round programs that provide year round access to an environment of hope.

A lot has changed since I was a child.  We ran to the rec center.  The rec centers today aren’t equipped to handle these young men but that L.E.A.D. is.  Today’s rec centers definitely need to be upgraded with technology because today’s teen thrives off of it.  Technology provides information that will empower youth.  When I was a kid, the big thing was staying in touch with friends that you met at a summer camp from the rec center with pen pal letters.  Obviously those days are over and will never return.

L.E.A.D. is a program based at Perkerson Park and is charged with meeting middle and high school males where they are.  Our goal is to Launch educational opportunities, Expose them to service.  Advise them and their parents on how to achieve their goals and Direct them with the legacy of current leaders such as Mayor Kasim Reed and past legends such as Benjamin E. Mays.

On August 10, 2010, Mayor Reed provided hope to inner city Atlanta youth by announcing at a press conference that 6 Rec Centers in Atlanta are now open and ready to serve.  I was fortunate to be in attendance for the press conference and hope sounded really loud from the cheers of young kids that were there as well.  Hope is no longer a dream.  Hope is now a reality; the centers our youth so desperately need are opening. L.E.A.D. is ready to join Mayor Reed's initiative and serve with programming.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How did you serve today?

The principal of Grove Park Elementary School (Atlanta Public School) called me three a few weeks ago needing the services of my L.E.A.D. Ambassadors. It felt so good to get that call knowing that she knew when she needed help, my young men and I would be there.

Today we prepared the school for the return of young students. Several desk were moved from one room to another along with books. Whatever needed to be done, we made it happen.

The evening news showcased young men between the ages of 12-18 being involved in violent crimes; but for over 5 hours, the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors were serving. Trying to improve the city. Preparing an A.P.S. School for another promising school year.

I love having people depend on me. The opportunity to serve others is as important to me as living.

L.E.A.D. couldn't stop all crime throughout Atlanta today but we did do our part to serve Atlanta.our city.

How do I say thank you?

It took a lot of coaching to create the person that I am today. My playing days are over but I am prepared to coach and develop other young men the way that I was developed. I know the methodology and I know it works.

I started playing baseball at the Cascade Youth Organization and Coach Gus Burns was my first coach. He was an older gentleman whose gray hair was a sign of wisdom. He taught me patience. It took a lot to teach me how to finally make contact with the ball. Coach Emmett Johnson was Coach Burns’ assistant. He had a beautiful family and was an educator. He always stressed academic excellence. No grades, no baseball. I kept the same coaches and played on the same youth Braves team with the same players until I was 11 years old. We became a family.

My family saved lots of money and off to Fairburn, GA we went. Then I had to find the baseball fields. Coach Zack Davis was my coach from age 11 to 13. He taught me how to compete. We worked harder than everyone at the Old National Athletic Association. We were expected to win.

At age 14, I was still at ONAA but now playing for the elite Pirates. We had so much talent but unfortunately a lot of egos and bad attitudes. Coach James Holiday was very strict and introduced me to tough love. He wanted nothing but the best from us. Lack of effort and disrespect didn't go unnoticed at all!

I finally got to high school. Westlake baby! We couldn't seem to buy a win until Coach Dave Whitfield taught us how to love and respect the game. Our love was shown every game as we never stepped on the field with dirty cleats. That was a curse and we always came to school on game days with our uniform on a hanger. Pride baby!

When I was GA State Baseball bound, I was literally thinking, “I'm on top of the world.” I was drafted by the Cubs and was playing at a Division 1 school, thinking the world owed me. Above all, I finally had freedom. Coach Mike Hurst taught me that freedom has consequences. I made some bad choices but I learned. Although the hard way, I'm better now for it.

After GSU, I transferred to Dekalb Junior College. "Courteney, you are going to have to play hard here at Dekalb. No excuses!" Those were Coach Tom Cantrell’s the first words to me. He taught me how to play with passion. “If you are going to play the game, play it right and play it hard!”

Next stop was Chicago Cubs, baby! The dream became reality. I played for and was coached by so many legends. The coach that stood out the most to me was Tom Gamboa. He really believed in me and taught me how to believe in others. I always felt like an all-star around him.

L.E.A.D. will continue to develop young men on and off the baseball field under my leadership. That leadership didn't come from a classroom or a coaching clinic. Life has put me with some great men. I say thank you by paying it forward!

X's and O's

When writing love letters, X's and O's represents hugs and kisses. They are symbols of love. To be an effective coach, you must love your players. You must love them with action and positive words. You must love them with patience and understanding. Those same X's and O's represents strategy in baseball and as we all know, teaching baseball isn't easy. If we coach our players with love, they will always win.

Coaching youth sports has become loosely defined over the years to mean an adult taking charge of a team. The good coaches win all the games and the bad coaches can't seem to get a break.

With L.E.A.D., coaching occurs on and off the field. It is year-round commitment for our year-round program.

Young men will be young men. Before they can become men, they have to learn the importance of being punctual. They have to really understand what it means to respect others. They have to learn how to dress for success and understand etiquettes. Most of these lessons will be learned through mistakes made. As a child, I was taught right from wrong and learned from my own mistakes but it wasn't until I was older that I was coached on how to be a responsible man. I still need constant coaching.

Coaching requires patience, passion, and an understanding of people and their daily struggles. For me to make an impact on a young man, I just need him to be willing to learn from his mistakes. Like life, baseball is full of ups and downs and requires usable skills to compete. As the founder of L.E.A.D. and as a coach, I must also realize that a lot of mistakes that my Ambassadors make are due to mistakes that I'm making in turns of not holding them accountable.

Coaching is about meeting young men where they are and using a holistic approach to improving him as a superior citizen and superior athlete. This is what the L.E.A.D. coaches do to best help the young men that we serve.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Another level

It's time to take L.E.A.D. to another level. Tuesday night, I walked L.E.A.D. into a packed room of Atlanta's distinguished. I, along with 19 other colleagues, were introduced as the 2010 Atlanta Business League Men of Influence.

The ABL was established in 1933 as an affiliate of the National Business League which was founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington.

Past Honorees include Hank Aaron, Ambassador Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson, Benjamin Elihah Mays and Nathaniel Bronner Sr. just to name a few. My 2010 class honored Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, President of Atlanta City Council Caesar Mitchell, Dennis Boyden of AT&T and my cousin Leon Goodrum who is the 1st black owner of a McDonald's in Atlanta.

L.E.A.D. has mattered in the eyes of many for 3 years but we have now moved to another level. A new level of respect. Respect that was earned by the sacrifice of many who came before me and for those that fight with us to save the lives Atlanta's precious assets, our youth.

As I stood at the podium last night and gave my name and said that "I am the proud founder and CEO of L.E.A.D., Inc. (Launch, Expose, Advise and Direct),” I officially put the city on notice that we are here and I need the support from my new colleagues who also represent the best of Atlanta.

With this newly earned respect comes many more responsibilities. Let's go even higher.

Monday, July 26, 2010

L.E.A.D. Community Day in East Point

On Saturday, July 31st, L.E.A.D. will be hosting its 1st Annual Community Day in East Point. Through the support of South Fulton Medical Center and Hope-Beckham PR, L.E.A.D. will bring the community together for some fun activities, medical health screenings and BASEBALL!

I remember, competing as a youth in football, basketball and baseball in East Point. I even pitched a no hitter against the Tri-Cities Bulldogs. Those were the days. I was young and prayed to God that I could fulfill all of my hopes and dreams of being a successful citizen when I became an adult.

Over a decade later, I’m back in East Point as the CEO and founder of L.E.A.D. The name of the city is the same but the community sure isn’t.

Back in my day, community leaders were everywhere helping young men like me stay on track. It seemed like there was at least one mentor in the community for every young man that wanted one. Those elders aren’t around anymore, God bless them. Businesses were successful in the community because the community supported them. Now, some of those businesses of old are boarded up or being robbed by preteen boys. Back then, all the girls were trying to graduate from high school with the highest GPA and then excel at UGA. Now I see a community of teenage pregnancy. I remember East Point like yesterday when Outkast came out with its first hit that encouraged my high school graduating class to reach for the stars. Now, teenagers don’t want to listen to their lyrics because they don’t curse enough.

With L.E.A.D. now in the community, there is a sharing of information that promotes college attendance. There is development of skills on and off the baseball field for young men that provides access to college scholarship opportunities. There is a helping hand to the hard working parents that want to see their son achieve his dreams and return to lead his community. There is an additional presence of positive men in the community to show young women how they should be treated with respect. The teachers that are striving everyday to reach their students now have additional support to expose them to new opportunities beyond the Eastside. There will be an increase of noise in the streets but not coming from cars blasting music. We are cracking a lot of bats and cheering loud and proud for a new generation of Leaders led by a spirit of past legends.

A community is as strong as its leaders. Who is leading the East Point community now? Where does the East Point community want to be a decade from now?

L.E.A.D. may not be able to solve the problems that exist in East Point but we sure can be a part of the solution.

Talk and walk

Of no control of my own, I was a 1976 Grady baby and didn't have the privilege to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak. The great things that I learned about Dr. King came from stories passed down, audio and visual aids.

What I notice about Dr. King that made him such a profound leader is that he literally did more walking than he did talking. He was a verb and not a noun. He spoke to crowd from the pulpit and delivered his vision but early the next morning, you could find him leading that crowd down a road or change. Change that made this country a stronger one.

Dr. King was a visionary as well as a leader. You can have the vision but you have to walk the walk. Today's definition of a leader is totally different than the past. I hear a lot of good visions but there is no follow up. No deliverables. So many chiefs, but no real leaders. No action.
The Civil Rights Movement was lead by Atlanta's own Dr. Martin Luther King. He was a doer and not just a visionary. He had one mouth but his words were carried out with two hands and two feet.

L.E.A.D. vows to do more walking than talking. We invite you go for a walk with us and talk about the future of Atlanta.

The end of this journey is a cycle of educated and civic-minded workforce coming out of Atlanta into the world with a heart of service.

I ask you to walk alongside me in making education relevant by introducing career opportunities. Exposure to a world beyond the one that they currently live in is priceless. We like to talk about careers and not just jobs. What is your occupation?

I ask you to walk alongside me to show the Leaders that we serve how to be a productive citizen. We tell them that citizenship is more than waking up every day and living in the community. Your community advances by you making it better. At times, this is a difficult because when they open their eyes, they are back in the same harsh reality. We need to expose them to the best communities, people and families that this city has to offer. Are you the doors for our Leaders?

I ask you to walk alongside of me as we show our Leaders that service can begin at any age and you don't have to be rich to make a difference. You can't promote leadership without service. Our Leaders serve the city of Atlanta at least once a month. We could always use some extra hands.

I wish that we could travel this journey with love alone but it is going to take financial resources because eventually our shoes are going to wear out. We are going to get hungry. We have to rest in a safe place. What are you able and willing to invest in your city?